When one thinks of Route 66, several iconic roadside sights spring to mind: the nostalgic Blue Whale of Catoosa, OK, the surreal Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX, the bustling Santa Monica Pier at the Western end of the route, but few icons of the mother road loom larger than Whilmington’s own Gemini Giant!
One of the many iconic “Muffler Men” that dot Route 66 and other historic routes across the country, the Gemini Giant is beloved for it’s unique space-age theming and quirky color palate. These molded fiberglass advertising giants, named after the mufflers the original statues held in their hands, have become a staple of Americana since their invention in the early 1960′s by boatbuilder Steve Dashew and his International Fiberglass company.
While thousands of these goliath figures would be scattered across the Country in the decade they were produced, few have built up the beloved fan base of the Gemini Giant. Named after the Gemini space program, this custom fiberglass figure sports a silver torpedo-like astronaut helmet and, instead of a muffler, holds a rocketship in his hands.
The 438-lbs giant was originally purchased by Dari-Delight owners John and Bernice Korelc in the mid-60′s. Seeing an opportunity, they rebranded their restaurant the “Launching Pad” to fit with the Gemini Giant’s theming and symbolize the kick-off to many Route 66 journeys.
While many Muffler Men across the nation disappeared, the Gemini Giant always remained in place. In 2017, Holly Barker and Tully Garrett purchased the the Launching Pad restaurant and pledged to return the iconic giant to it’s former glory. Within a year, a beautifully restored Gemini Giant was unveiled on it’s original parking lot pedestal.
This popular photo-op can be found along the Historic Route 66/East Baltimore Street on the North end of Wilmington, approximately 50 miles from the start of the Route.
For more information on the Gemini Giant and The Launching Pad Restaurant, visit: geminigiant.com and follow The Launching Pad on Facebook.
The Gemini Giant
810 E Baltimore St.
Wilmington, IL 60481